First, let’s throw out all the usual caveats — it’s only eight games into the regular reason, the Razorbacks’ non-conference schedule wasn’t what you would call “grueling” and it’s rarely a good idea to build up a freshman’s ego.
There. All the responsible things have been said.
Now we can get to the fun stuff: Namely, that Moses Moody looks like one special talent. The star Arkansas freshman is off to one of the best career debuts in Razorback history. He’s leading the undefeated Razorbacks in points (16.9 ppg) while tacking on 5.6 rbs, 1.9 asts, 1.3 stls, 51.2% FGs (and 41.7% from 3).
While the 6’6” Moody has great footwork and shot mechanics, what makes him truly special is his elite offensive IQ and feel for the game. “He’s really good at not only reading his primary defender, but reading the secondary defender,” analyst Jake Rosen said on the Prep2Pro podcast. “When he takes dribble pull ups, it’s never like, ‘Oh, you really could have had something else there.’”
“He takes dribble pull [jumpers] when people really slide over and cut off his lane to the rim and he reads and reacts. He’s just so quick to see everything on the floor.”
That preternatural court awareness is something shared by my high school classmate, Joe Johnson. Twenty years ago, the 6’8” Johnson showed a lot of the same abilities from the wing in college, even if he was a more deadly passer while Moody is a better shooter from deep.
Their numbers six games into their freshman seasons were eerily familiar:
Joe Johnson's freshman season with @RazorbackMBB compared to Moses Moody's first 6 games as a UA freshman:— HogStats.com (@HogStats) December 14, 2020
Johnson - 16.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 2.0 SPG
46.4% FG%, 36.8% 3FG%, 75.9 FT%
Moody - 16.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.5 SPG
48.4% FG%, 40.7% 3FG%, 86.2% FT% pic.twitter.com/2unjlU5PF1
In short, Johnson was (along with Ron Brewer) perhaps the smoothest Hog to ever play. Early on, Moses “Smoothie” looks like he might challenge him for that title.
I’m not the only one who sees the comparison.
Matt Zimmerman, the Razorbacks’ radio color commentator, sees Moody as a mix of three all-time greats including Johnson. “There are times when he has smaller guards on him, and he bodies them up, and kind of goes around him and scores on a mid-range. He looks like a smaller version of Joe Johnson,” he said on “Out of Bounds” on the Buzz 103.7.
“He’s fundamental, but yet he can be flashy. He makes play after play. He can shoot, he can hit the mid-range.”
Zimmerman also compared Moody to Scotty Thurman, the former Razorback assistant who became a statewide legend in 1994 by nailing the go-ahead three in the national title game against Duke.
The 6’6” Thurman had broken onto the scene a year earlier, when he averaged a program freshman scoring average (17.4 ppg on 44.2% three-point shooting) that still stands. He wasn’t the most athletic great scorer in Hogs history, but he was heady and played with great pace like Johnson and Moody.
Zimmerman also threw out a comparison that isn’t so obvious — Todd Day, the Razorbacks’ all-time leading scorer. The 6’7” Day was a very athletic slasher who caused all kinds of problems when driving to the rim and attacking the basket with much more regularity than Moody.
Moody, by contrast, is a superior three-point shooter who only drives if that’s what the defense gives him. But Zimmerman said his Chuck Barrett, the Hogs’ play by play man, pointed out what the two players share.
In the season opener, Moody was hitting short corner shots “where Todd used to live. He made some shots from the elbow where Todd used to live. He’d make those three-pointers. And you kind of start thinking about, ‘Well, he’s not really Todd. He doesn’t play like Todd.’ But you know what? That play there, that jab step and hitting that shot — that was Todd Day. That’s what Todd liked to do.”
After essentially saying Moody is a combo of three of the most talented Hogs ever, Zimmerman was quick to add his own caveats. “Don’t roll your eyes and don’t laugh and don’t send me any letters in hatred,” he said.
“I’m not trying to put that kind of pressure on this young man. He hadn’t played a Power 5 opponent yet. But he’s very, very talented.”
The NBA draft analysts agree.
Based on the versatility and efficiency they see in the video clip below, many of them slot Moody in the first round in the 2021 NBA Draft. Bleacher Report even has him slotted at No. 9.
To stay in that Top 10 conversation, Moody needs to show he can keep this up next week when the SEC season starts and the level of competition skyrockets. It’s a wide open race for the SEC title now that preseason favorite Kentucky has taken a nosedive and the odds for teams like Missouri and Arkansas have risen, according to the sportsbooks listed in legalbetting.com. Moody is on the cusp of an all-SEC season if he can play this efficiently in January and February. Then, one day, he would be the point of comparison for the future Razorback stars who are watching him on TV now.
For more insight on Hogs basketball, see my deep dive analysis entitled “At Last, Arkansas Freshmen Better than UK’s ‘One and Done’ Counterparts”